I am a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University and a recipient of the Weiss Fund Postdoctoral Fellowship. I graduated from Harvard University with a PhD in Public Policy in 2021.
My research focuses on labor markets in developing countries, with a specific focus on India. Recently I have been studying how the competition for government jobs through merit-based exams interacts with rest of the labor market.
Media: Ideas of India
Peviously circulated as "Chasing Government Jobs: How Aggregate Labor Supply Responds to Public Sector Hiring Policy in India"
Abstract: Many countries allocate government jobs through a system of merit-based exams. In India, these exams are highly competitive, with selection rates often less than 0.1%. Among recent college graduates, for whom application rates are the highest, does the competition for scarce and valuable government jobs affect labor supply? To answer this question, I study the labor market impact of a partial public sector hiring freeze in the state of Tamil Nadu between 2001 and 2006, which sharply reduced the number of public sector vacancies available through exams but otherwise left aggregate labor demand intact. I find that candidates responded by spending less time employed, and more time studying. A decade after the hiring freeze was lifted, the cohorts of men that spent more time studying now work in lower-paid occupations. To compensate, they live in households with more earning members, but this also means they delay forming their own households, being more likely to remain unmarried and live with their parents. Finally, I show that the shape of the returns to study effort helps explain why it is so costly for candidates to suspend exam preparation, even when vacancy availability falls. Together, these results indicate that public sector hiring policy has the potential to move the whole labor market.
Abstract: Government jobs in India are valuable, not just because they pay relatively higher wages, but also because they provide many valuable amenities, such as lifetime tenure, access to bribes, and prestige. Does the value of these amenities compete with the nominal wage itself? I use the observed search behavior of candidates preparing for highly structured competitive exams for government jobs to infer a lower bound on the total value of a government job, including amenities. Based on a sample of 120 male candidates preparing for state-level civil service exams in Pune, Maharashtra, I estimate a total value of at least 425,000 INR per month. This estimate implies that the amenity value of a government job is at least 81% of total compensation. The high amenity value is not driven by misinformed beliefs about the nominal wage, nor by a high value placed on the process of studying itself. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of these findings for policy and the questions it raises for future research.
The Underrepresentation of Women in Competitive Careers: Evidence from the Indian Civil Service (joint with Niharika Singh)
Abstract: Entry into prestigious, high-paying jobs often depends on succeeding in tournaments. These are the same jobs in which women tend to be under-represented. In this paper, we explore the causes of under-representation of women in the Indian civil services, where placement depends on succeeding in a highly competitive examination process. Using a dataset from a large Indian state that covers the universe of applicants and their placement outcomes to state-level civil service jobs between 2012-2016, we uncover where gaps arise in the recruitment process. We show that test re-taking is a key constraint for women: successful placement typically require multiple attempts, but women—particularly those that score well on initial attempts—are less likely to retake the exam than men. The dynamic selection of applicants across exam attempts contributes to a gender gap in placement outcomes. We provide suggestive evidence that the marriage pressure constrains high-ability women from making more attempts.
What Can Online Vacancies Tell Us About Labor Market Conditions in Lower-Income Countries? Evidence from India (joint with Niharika Singh and Justin Bloesch)
Abstract: In developing countries, where labor market data is often scarce and infrequently collected, online job vacancy data may provide valuable insights. However, it is still an open question whether variation in online recruitment adequately represents the broader economy in these settings. We are currently collecting data from a wide range of online job boards in India. We then plan to compare that data with existing household survey data to better understand how informative it is.
The following articles are non-peer-reviewed pieces written in commemoration of the Review of Economics and Statistics 100th anniversary:
Khwaja, Asim I., and Kunal Mangal. “Review of Economics and Statistics over the Past 100 Years: A Counting Exercise.” Review of Economics and Statistics 100, no. 2 (2018a): i-v.
Khwaja, Asim I., and Kunal Mangal. “Review of Economics and Statistics over the Past 100 Years: Authorship.” Review of Economics and Statistics 100, no. 3 (2018b): i-v.
Khwaja, Asim I., and Kunal Mangal. “Review of Economics and Statistics over the Past 100 Years: Content.” Review of Economics and Statistics 100, no. 4 (2018c): i-vi.
Khwaja, Asim I. and Kunal Mangal. “Review of Economics and Statistics over the Past 100 Years: Content Explorer.” Review of Economics and Statistics 101, no. 1 (2019): pp.i-iii.
The last article has an accompanying web application that allows you to track the popularity of words and phrases in ReStat over time.